Harbor Home



Halfway on that long sea journey
you remember the mountain swinging into view,
blue slope shaping the island;
the palm-lined shoreline drawing you closer
into the harbor of that quiet sea town
sheltered in the mountain’s shadow.


On the promenade by the w1ater
they stroll late afternoons and early evenings,
those students, teachers off from school,
clerks from City Hall; an old man
walking his idiot grandson;
the wealthy Chinese dowager
hobbling on stunted, bound feet
stockinged in any weather,
her retinue of servant girls toting
fair-skinned fat-faced babies;
earnest children, sad old ladies
hawking sweepstake tickets, salted peanuts,
bibingka, warm Coca-Cola.
In groups or alone,
they come for the breeze from the water,
to watch shadows settle on nearby islands,
Cebu, Panglao, Siquijor and, some days,
the coast of Mindanao hovering
on the horizon’s haze.
At dusk they slowly head for home,
the Angelus ringing
Hail Mary, full of grace.


Night, and the fishermen go to sea
regretting the moon that pales the glimmer
of their lanterns on the water luring fish
into nets, onto baited hooks dangled
in dark depths.

Spread out, the bancas rock and sway
on the tide, stringing their lights
across the bay; the melancholy flames
flash like sea snakes on the swish and rush
of the moon-drawn flood racing,
plunging. Magic and terror
battering the constant shore.


In town at no fixed hour the people
mark the coming and going of boats
in the harbor by their whistles and horns:
three blares for arrival, two for departure–
Manila, Mindanao, Cebu;
and sometimes at night a massive freighter
from Liverpool or Amsterdam dropping
or raising anchor blasts its horn;
deep booms bounce off the mountain,
echo and float in the shattered dark
where the startled sleeper, waking,
turns over, and resumes dreaming
in that slumbering town by the sea.


Wishing to see more
than vapor trails across the sky
on that extended journey,
you welcome birds broadcasting land.
Seduced by other harbors,
you think all ports the same,
forgetting that which you loved well.
Still, served by memory,
time’s inconstant servant,
summoned up by one thing or another,
you dream someday arriving
at the hometown you remember,
and finding it there.

Myrna Peña-Reyes was born in Cagayan de Oro City, but her family moved to Dumaguete where she was educated at Silliman University from elementary through college, graduating with a BA in English. She went on to earn her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. While a resident of Eugene, Oregon where she lived with her late husband, the poet William T. Sweet, she was a winner of the Oregon Literary Fellowship grant for poetry in 2002. Presently retired in her hometown of Dumaguete, she continues her volunteer affiliation with Silliman University’s literature and creative writing program. Her poetry collections include The River Singing Stone (1994), Almost Home: Poems (2004), and Memory’s Mercy: New and Selected Poems (2014).


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